Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday August 28 2010

imageHere.  Thanks again to MJ.  Small Singapore Things.

David Thompson should be told about this ... what is the singular of ephemera?  Ephemeron?
 

Friday August 27 2010

imageKnowing my predilection for Friday felinity, Michael J today sent in the link to a story entitled Baby tiger found stuffed in bag at Thai airport.  Baby tiger: cute.  Smuggling baby tigers: bad. Rich Iranians like to keep baby tigers as pets: bad.  Baby tiger nearly died: bad.  Baby tiger rescued from nasty smuggling woman: good.  You know the kind of thing.

But why, instead of exporting tigers from Thailand being illegal, doesn’t Thailand let the exporting of tigers be a legal business?  There is obviously money to be made, provided they don’t over-produce the little things, thereby reducing their exoticism and pet snob appeal.  And legal capitalists would be far more likely to worry about preserving tigers in the long term than illegal smugglers, who might just swipe the lot for short term gain.

I seem to recall Leon Louw having written stuff about this, at some time in the past.  His point, as I recall it, was that lefties get all gooey-eyed about endangered species, but don’t care enough about them to make them unendangered to the point of actually ensuring that they survive and flourish.  Flourishing animals aren’t romantic and endearing.  Only endangered ones are good.  Link anyone?  I couldn’t find anything by Louw on this specific point.

imageMore cattery (via David Thompson) here.  Stupid New York women dressing cats up in stupid costumes.

Bad.
 
 
 
 

Earlier this year Toby Baxendale talked into my recording machine, with only occasional interruptions from me, about the banking crisis and what to do about it.

This happened before the recent general election, so apologies for the delay in sticking this up, but nothing important has changed.  The delay was because the thing was rather long, and I hesitated about how to present it.  In the end, I just sliced out some stuff, mostly at the beginning, and shoved it up.  I’m guessing that the audience for this, some of it at least, will be willing to spend a bit of time on it.  So, I left it at just over an hour, rather than cutting it any further.  The crude timing of this two part conversation is that the “what do we do?” question is put just after the 38 minute mark.

Some of what I omitted was by way of biographical introduction about Toby.  If you would like to know more about him, read this, or listen to the the first conversation that I recorded with him in November of last year.

Here are links to the Cobden Centre, of which Toby is the chairman, and to its blog.  Toby’s own Cobden Centre bloggings can be read here.

Thursday August 26 2010

imageI want to keep a note of this picture (it’s one of these) of what looks like a tap with water coming out of it, but which is actually a tap balanced on a solid piece of perspex.

I have been looking for this image for years, to illustrate a piece of blogging I want to do at Samizdata, Real Soon Now, about the Fixed Quantity of Wealth Fallacy.  Ideally, the shape of the water coming out of the tap would be doing that that this-way-that-way thing that water coming out of a tap sometimes does, rather than it just forming a perfect column, perfectly circular if you, as it were, cut horizontally though it.  Can anyone find a version of this sculpture that looks like that, rather than like the one on the right?

Friday August 20 2010

Here.  Can’t ignore that just because I’m on holiday.

Thursday August 19 2010

The bails:

image

The stumps.

Sunday August 15 2010

Things seem to be pretty quiet around here, so I’ll be taking a bit of a break until the autumn.  Although, it feels like autumn now, what with it being so cold and rainy just now.  So anyway, postings here will be on an occasional, only-when-I-feel-like-it basis for the next week or two, or maybe more three or four.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be postings.  The rule is that I don’t have to post stuff here every couple of days, not that I have not to post stuff.  So, you’ll read me when you do, whenever that turns out to be.

Friday August 13 2010

Some snaps of the ever growing Shard, taken by me a couple of days ago.  Click to get them bigger:

imageimageimageimage

The weather looked only so-so when I departed on my journey, but it turned out fabulous.  It’s amazing what a difference great weather makes to photography, when it comes to buildings.  Something to do with the clearness of the air.

I fluctuate in my guesses as to how good/splendid/magnificent the Shard will end up looking.  I think the answer is that different views will yield different results.  I worry that Guy’s Hospital (which will just become differently ugly after its facelift, I think) won’t be sufficiently dwarfed, at any rate from some angles.  As always with architecture, you never really know how it will look until it is finished.

Meanwhile, the cranes look magnificent.

Thursday August 12 2010

I’m talking about this:

image

Is that as daft as it seemed to me when I photoed it in Victoria Street this afternoon?  If there is agreement here, I will promote it to Samizdata.  If not, then we can forget about it.

Indeed:

This is good different reason why I similar your website. I one your trend of authorship you assure your histories without out sending us to 5 previous sites to accomplished the story.

Deleted from a posting called It only takes One Rich Lunatic.  May the perpetrator of this, and all the other members of his spamster tribe, remain poor lunatics for all of their (I trust) miserable lives.

Wednesday August 11 2010

Counting Cats (NickM to be exact) has a great photo up, of a couple of US fighter jets doing space rocket impersonations, which NickM found here.  So I went wandering around at the same locale, and found this:

image

It’s the latest manifestation of the Galaxy, known as the Super Galaxy (warning: that’s a video and it will immediately start talking).  It’s not a new version of the old Galaxy so much as a beefing up programme for old Galaxies, fitting them with better engines and better ... stuff.

Monday August 09 2010

August being a quiet time for doing stuff indoors, Mein Host is doing some housekeeping and general shuffling around of stuff early this evening, and this blog will probably be down for a while.  It will be back up again soon.  Your continuing supply of trivia with a libertarian tinge is safe.

Meanwhile, before and after whatever interruption transpires, here is a self portrait of me, taken last month, reflected off of some Thing.  Judging by the photos next to it in the archives, this Thing was somewhere in that big shopping centre between Victoria train station and Victoria bus station.  I am suitably flattened:

image

So, see you all again soon.  Probably.

Sunday August 08 2010

There’s been much talk about technology as applied to cricket, what with this new referral system.  Personally I think they’re right to use it.  If spectators and telly viewers are going to be shown umpiring mistakes within seconds of them being made, then surely the umpires should have access to the same toys, to avoid such blunders.  The problem is that these toys, especially to begin with, will always take time to yield their verdicts.  So now, for instance, “Hotspot” and “Hawk Eye” both say what they have to say in seconds, and the umpires are now using these procedures.  But “Snicko” - the one that gives you the sound and slow-mo of the ball as it passes the batsman, and thus says whether his bat hit the ball or if that noise was from something else, like the bat hitting the pitch or the ball hitting the batsmans torso – still takes ages.

I personally do not like this referral system, which is a distinct issue from the general principle of using technology.  This means umpires being made to look silly when their decisions on the pitch are overturned, and I don’t like that.  In rugby union, the match officials are in complete charge of the technology.  Only they can “refer” a decision, which they do before they announce any verdict.  But I suppose the problem with cricket is that it contains many more semi-important decisions than rugby does, and if the umpires, on and off the pitch, were constantly consulting each other, it could seriously slow things down.

Meanwhile, the referral system has already, potentially, changed the course of one man’s life.  The new Pakistan wicketkeeper, Zulqarnain Haider, playing in his first test, was out for a golden duck in the first innings, and was today given out again, for another golden duck, by umpire whoever it was.  But Pakistan still had an appeal left.  They appealed, and the guy was not out.  And as I write this, he is still not out.  Fifty not out.  Excellent.

You can always tell when a series is horribly one sided.  The key symptom is that if your team is winning a miss-match, you want the other guys to do better.

To return to my basic point here, as for the argument that techology is imperfect and that therefore it shouldn’t be bothered with, that’s a red herring, I think.  All I ask is that the umpires get all the help they conveniently can get to make their decisions.  As always, they should make the decisions.  It’s just that now, they have progressively more visual evidence to base their decision on.  It’s up to them to research the various extra toys they now have, and use what they say to help them make their decisions better.  The only alternative would be to ban the rest of us seeing such analysis, and I can’t see that being popular.

Meanwhile, further proof of the imperfection of cricket technology was supplied this afternoon by cricinfo.com, which this afternoon has been all over the place:

image

So three batsman at the crease there.

image

Whereas that was done without any batsman or bowlers doing anything.  The Sussex team hadn’t even been announced.  Was it even on the pitch?

“Bugs”, the test match text commentators called it.  When they got the chance to say anything at all, which was only infrequently.  But things seem to have settled down a bit now.

I like this, from Roger Kimball:

Like many conservative books, the only place Encounter books appear in The New York Times is on their best-seller list.

That list always did strike me as a Trojan Horse waiting to burst open with news that contradicts all the other news.

I also like the picture Kimball has here.  (Spot the Billion Monkey (= digital photographer - which I have to put to stop any passing strangers thinking I am calling Barack Obama a monkey).)

And I like the fun he has with the word “structural” in this.  As a general rule, I tend to be confused by the use of the word “structure” (structure of the economy, structure of the population, or, as in Man, Economy and State: “structure of production") to describe anything except an actual structure, of the kind that engineers erect and which hold stuff up, or just themselves up so they can do things like be cranes or bridges.  Usually a word like “pattern” or “shape” would be better, and “structural” would improve clarity by being deleted.  “Structure” suggests that this bit of whatever it is is doing something causally significant to that bit (in the way that the lower bits of an actual structure support the higher up bits), when often all that is happening is that this bit just happens to be next to that bit.  Although, I suppose I have just answered the question of why Rothbard talks about “structure” of production, because this bit of production does indeed make the next bit of production possible, in the sense that making machine tools makes it possible for machine tools to make other things.  But I still find the word confusing, even in that sense.  I would prefer “nature of production”, or just “production”.

Anyway, Fareed Zakaria apparently blames President Bush for the “structural” deficit.  Says Kimball:

Gosh. “Structural deficit.” That sounds impressive. How, you might wonder, does a structural deficit differ from the common or garden variety deficit? Let’s leave that to one side, acknowledging as we do that a “structural deficit” at least sounds more impressive than a deficit without that adjectival honorific.

I wonder too.  Is the word “structural” rather like “social”, in the sense that it sabotages the meaning of whatever word comes next, by hinting at, in connection with something which would otherwise be real, a false theory about what exactly things of this sort really consists of and why?

Is the implication of “structural deficit” that this is the bit of the deficit that is hard to get rid of, because getting rid of it involves getting rid of the things that cause it, and that is really hard.  The unstructural deficit being the bit of the deficit that can just be got rid of, without anyg other things that cause if being got rid of, because nothing does cause it.  It is just lying around and sweeping it up and clearing it away is comparatively easy.  Am I confusing you?  Now you know how I feel.

I’m reading a lot of American stuff at the moment, with Instapundit, for now, being way ahead of Guido in frequency of visits.

Saturday August 07 2010

I seldom mention Richard North and his blog without including in among whatever I’m saying that Richard North is one of my current favourite bloggers.  In fact, of the big UK blogs, I put Guido and him right at my personal pinnacle.  Which might disgust North, who hates - certainly disapproves of - Guido for dealing in tittle tattle rather than the “real issues”, i.e. the issues North considers to be the vital issues, and which I also consider to be some of the vital issues.  The EU (obviously), and climate bullshit and associated policy blunders and scams, basically.  (Although, both Guido’s friends and Guido’s enemies often miss the profundities that he often alludes to, in among all the jolly japes about who is sleeping with who, who bribing who, and who is humiliating who on the telly.)

Despite my admiration for North, I have not, on the whole been reading his recent postings about the Battle of Britain.  Maybe later, has been my attitude.  Not for any big reason.  I just prefer, as of now, to be reading about other things.  But this posting did get my attention.  It contains an interesting observation about the impact of anti-aircraft guns on the battle:

Something I had never realised before is that, for three of the four months of the Battle of Britain, the guns claimed 221 confirmed kills. And they point to other functions which put the gunners at the heart of the battle (see p. 23 on the pdf linked).

The Command claims that its activities broke up bomber squadrons to enable them to be more easily dealt with by fighters. Furthermore, the importance of AA shell bursts as a “pointer” to fighters, even though the guns cannot themselves effectively engage the enemy, was frequently demonstrated.

It makes sense.  Airplanes are easier to spot when looked at either from above or from below.  Looking at them sideways on, on looking at them when they are coming straight at you, from whatever direction, makes them much harder to see when they’re quite far away.  So it makes sense that gunners on the ground might see enemy airplanes when airborne defenders might not see them.  And if the gunners can’t actually kill such attackers, they can at least put an explosion into their general vicinity and say: Over here!

Interesting.  I’m sure that some of the books I’ve read must have said something like this, e.g. in connection with the battles over Germany later in the war, but I never paid attention to the point before.

Friday August 06 2010

Photoed by me at Farnborough, minutes after photoing this cat:

imageimageimage

I particularly like the shovel in the bumper.  See the picture on the left.

Actually it all makes sense, despite my immediate objections on the day.  Supacat is the brand of the vehicle I photoed.  The Bloodhound is one of those spaceships with wheels that people drive across dried out lakes in America, trying to break the world land speed record.  And Falcon is the name of the company that makes the rockets for the spaceship with wheels.  The Supacat carries the Falcons for the Bloodhound, which is why it calls itself the Bloodhound quiver.  Clear?  I think so.

I’m still confused, however, about whether the “Falcon Project” linked to there is anything to do with this.  I believe they’re two separate enterprises, but comments agreeing with that or disagreeing with that would be very welcome.

Thursday August 05 2010

Today, I saw, on the side of a bus, and I immediately realised that here was a great opportunity for a flat graphic for this blog, this:

image

And since that graphic has put me in the mood for more graphic flattery, let me add what it also said on the bus, just below the bit I have showed you, namely the title of the movie, which is this:

image

Which I found here, where I also found a horizontal line of pictures, in the form of the cast:

image

Two thoughts.  One, I’ve thought for years that all these tough old git guys should get together and make a team movie.  And second, consider the non-participants.  Two spring to mind: Van Damme, and that one who was in Under Siege whose name temporarily escapes me, which is such a great movie that I didn’t think it silly even though he was the star of it.  I’m guessing that Van Damme still reckons he still has a few more real tough guy movies in him, of the sort with only one tough guy in them, so doesn’t want to admit to being expendable.  And I’m further guessing that the Under Siege guy thinks it is all beneath his dignity. What is that guy’s name.  (I know, Google.  But I’m not really asking.)

Jason Statham is interesting.  I’m guessing he has no problem admitting that he regards the old guys as revered role models, and has no problem being in the same movie with them.  Quite the opposite.  I’ve got a lot of time for Jason Statham.  It can’t be easy turning yourself from Jason Statham into, if you get my meaning, Jason Statham.  Yet Jason Statham accomplished this.  Impressive.

If Under Siege Man does think this movie beneath him, this could be a big miscalculation, because I have high hopes it.  For starters, Stallone is the lead writer and mastermind, and given that Stallone wasn’t just in Rocky, but he also wrote and masterminded Rocky, we can be certain that his off-screen IQ is way higher than his IQ on screen.  And the comic opportunities inherent in this assemblage of action acting talent are considerable.

Of course, it could just be that they all hate Under Siege Man, and he wasn’t asked.  You get the feeling watching Under Siege Man’s other movies that he may actually take all that oriental philosophy nonsense he spouts seriously.  If that’s the case that would make him intolerable company.  You would only spend time with him if you had to, like if you needed the money.  But that could all be quite wrong.  Maybe he just couldn’t fit it in.

It’s good to see Schwarzenegger back doing what he does best, what with him having totally failed to sort out the Californian state budget.

Who is Terry Crews?  It turns out he’s the replacement for “50 Cent”.  Presumably Mr Semi-Dollar was the original replacement for Wesley Snipes.

Eric Roberts looks rather out of place, so he must be the villain, or the person they are all trying to rescue, or something similarly important to the plot but off to the side of things.

Seriously, I think this could well turn into one of those great movies that is slammed senseless by “the critics”, but which the public likes and then refuses to forget about and which eventually turns into a classic.  And after twenty years, “the critics” are all pretending that they really liked it all along, when the truth is that half of them have by then been replaced by former members of the public, who of course loved it, and they dare not continue with their stupid carping.

ADDENDUM: Obvious question I forgot to ask about this, based on something I’ve only just realised: Is Bruce Willis in this or not? On the internet, he’s not involved.  On the bus, he is.  Strange.  Could it be that the internet is inaccurate? No, that can’t be possible.  Yet, I think, on this occasion, it has really happened.

Wednesday August 04 2010

Went browsing through Flickr, looking for bridges, which I’ve not done for a while, and I quickly found my way to this.  Here’s a slice of that picture, taken in October 2007:

image

It looks to have been taken at that lovely, misty time of the (guess) evening.  (I tried sharpening it, but this spoilt the atmosphere.) It’s the “Bay Bridge”, together with a new and much duller one being built alongside it.  I don’t know which bay it is.  Anyone?  I assume it’s in the USA somewhere.

The new Flickr interface is taking a bit of getting used to.  Why can’t everything stay as it is?  Well, not everything.  Just the Flickr interface.

Last night, and now twice again later this morning, I was getting lots of spam comments by someone advertising a Timberland Sale.

My question is this: does Timberland know that its sale is being thus made unpopular, hated even?  Are they to any extent guilty of the grief someone is causing me?  Did they hire these bastards?  Are they these bastards?  If so, I think I may visit one of their stores, and put hundreds of little stickers in lots of annoying places, saying: “Great store!  Lots of great boots!  I really like them!” And see how they like it.

There’s been quite a bit of spam commenting here during the last week, which suggests that the spamming is done by a different clutch of cretins to Timberland.  This has only been a mild problem here, apart from once, way back, when I had to call the Spam Brigade to deal with it.  I don’t even know how to block spam all coming from the same place.  I dare say if I did learn this trick, which would presumably only take a minute, they would just jump to somewhere else, which is part of why I don’t bother.

I see that a favourite blogger of mine suffers from this too.

Last night I did something really strange (for me), and really productive.  I went to bed really early.  What I did was: combine my early evening nap with ... going to bed.  The thing was, I had been getting up later and later, and having my early evening nap later and later, and then going to bed later and later, and my “early evening nap” had itself started to approach a normal bed time.  So, I just ... went to bed.  A bit early by anyone else’s standards, but about a third of a day early by my recent standards, and I skipped the waking up after the nap bit.  I just stayed in bed.  And this morning I was up like a normal person, early in the morning.  By 10 am, I had already done this, and this, and now I’ve done this.  Which means that today, the day is already clear to get stuck into some serious stuff.

Monday August 02 2010

Michael Ledeen:

“I want to be perfectly clear,” the president said.  And then he lapsed into incoherence. ...

I guess if you are a politician prone to incoherence, you spend a lot of time wanting to be perfectly clear.

Nixon used to say: “Let me make one thing perfectly clear”, did he not?  It was as if he knew that perpetual coherence was way beyond his reach, but that if he really really concentrated on making one thing perfectly clear, he just might manage it.

I was glad to read this:

Unfortunately, although the conversation is timely and should be posted quickly, but I have not had the opportunity to give it a great deal of editing. (I am presently in Romania, as part of having a life, and a touch short of editing facilities). As a consequence, the conversation still contains a few ums and ahs and pauses, and I think it is a little slow in starting. However, for those who want to give us a fair shake of the sauce bottle, I think it is pretty coherent once we get going.  Enjoy.

Glad because when I do recorded talks involving Michael Jennings, I edit him a lot.  No offence, and all that, but Michael is indeed an um-er and ah-er, and also a pauser, especially, as he says, when getting started.  And glad because it’s always fun to read a deftly written apology for something potential listeners might otherwise fret about and not get past.

I have a special interest in this recording, because although I had no hand in making it, I am now its host.  I have listened to only a tiny bit of it so far.  I sounds a bit quiet to me.

Hepworth:

The world is now so firmly divided into people who Google everything and those who rarely think of it that it’s almost become an alternative definition of intelligence.

Heh, indeed, and all that, but actually, I don’t think the division is that firm.  I inhabit a strange hinterland between Googling everything and Googling nothing.  I perpetually have to rediscover the usefulness of Google, but keep forgetting it.  Like trying to speak a foreign language when you’re old, and doing it really badly, unlike multi-lingual kids who have no trouble learning new stuff, however complex.  I quite often ask questions while concocting blog postings, but having done that (preferably before posting), I often remember that some questions are easily answered, by Google.  Not all.  Some.  And if the question you do end up posting is easily answered by Google, you look like a prune.

But this is a lesson I keep having to relearn.  It will never be second nature.  Second nature has to be absorbed at least reasonably near to the time when you were supplied with your first nature.  For me, this was too long ago.

Incidentally, I’ve just clocked the subtitle of Hepworth’s blog, which I also like:

A bunch of thoughts that won’t go anywhere else.

A fine definition of what I refer to here as kitten blogging, i.e. the kind of blogging where your motive is pure pleasure, absolute showing off only to those entertained by this, perfectly distilled egoism, with no taint whatever of public service, or any attempt to chase stats.

Sunday August 01 2010

And at least as much for what children are not called as for what they are called.

Why is nobody in the Anglosphere called Jesus, apart from James Jesus Angleton, when in the Hispanosphere, Hayzoose (sounds like) is ubiquitous?

And why are no kids ever called Sherlock?  I am now watching the new TV Sherlock Holmes rehash.  Usually I despise Sherlock Holmes rehashes, but this one, more than usually rehashed, I am enjoying.  Why?  Finally, I’m hoping that Watson, cool twenty first century Watson, will say to Holmes, at some point during this, when Holmes says something rather obvious: ”No shit Sherlock”.

I would rather not be called Brian.  Whenever someone is a bit goofy or stupid or unsatisfactory, in unreality TV dramas or in the movies, he’s liable to be a Brian.  But I would rather be called Brian than Jesus.

And thereby pulls the ladder up behind him?

There are two delightful quotes at the end of this (definitely my favourite piece of Instapundit linkage lately), concerning someone called Snooki.

There was this:

Snooki portrayed Obama as out of touch with the reality TV community.

I’m guessing that means “the general public” minus those few freaks (like me) who prefer unreality TV, i.e. drama, sport, the news etc.

And this:

Clearly, Obama can’t relate to Snooki’s problems, she added, commenting on Obama’s skin color, ‘Obama doesn’t have that problem. Obviously,’ she said.

Snooki has been complaining about Obama taxing tanning salons, which means Snooki won’t be going to them any more.  Snooki will consequently become totally white.  The horror.

It’s interesting how being brown is a state to which you now aspire.  I’ve long felt that white coffee is at least as nice a colour for humans as milk or as coffee without milk.  Yet, I am old enough to remember the phrase “half caste” being used to describe the white coffee tendency.  Half castes, poor wretches, were not full members of either “community” and hence totally on their own, and liable, at any rate in a Somerset Maugham short story, to commit suicide.  I guess in an ethnically segregated colonial world that would be about right, but not in a country like Britain now.  Is the US like Britain in this respect?  I’m guessing yes.  And they’ve just elected a mongrel President.  You think that’s a tasteless word?  He used it first.

See also the comments on this.

Here’s to melting pots.